[Viewpoint]Watching careful Lee

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[Viewpoint]Watching careful Lee

‘Honey, there is an old saying that a thousand tael of gold outside the palanquin is useless, but one thousand tael of gold inside the palanquin is useful,” Choi Seong-yeon told her only daughter.
That moment, she had to make the agonizing decision about whether to select a young man from a poor family as her son-in-law.
She said, “If I had two daughters, I would marry one off to a rich man and the other one to a man with a good personality. Since I have only one daughter, I think I have to put the priority on a good personality.”
She was saying that her would-be son-in-law didn’t have much at the time, but she had high hopes for his future. That is how the marriage of Kim Soo-keun, the founder of the Daesung Group, and Yeo Gui-ok, the daughter of Choi Seung-yeon, was agreed upon.
For a long, long time, the bride’s family has had the say about marriages in Korea. The Chinese character hon, for marriage, includes a symbol meaning “darkness.”
It was customary in the ancient Goguryeo period to hold wedding ceremonies at night.
As the dusk deepened, the would-be bridegroom knelt outside the house of the would-be bride and pleaded for permission to sleep with her. Then the high-handed bride’s father and mather would allow the son-in-law in late at night to go into the room (which had been prepared beforehand), as if they had given in reluctantly.
They say the term jang-ga-ganda, “go to the bride’s house [to get married],” originated from this custom.
The story behind the marriage of Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak to his wife, Kim Yoon-ok, is the talk of the town nowadays. The wealthy parents of the bride preferred to have their daughter marry a prosecutor, with whom they had arranged a meeting for her some time ago, rather than Lee, a poor salaryman. However, an old man in Kim’s neighborhood, who was known to be “enlightened,” told Kim’s father, “If your daughter marries the prosecutor, you will get four tons of rice, but if she marries the salaryman, you will get hundreds of tons of rice.”
Kim’s father, it seems, made an excellent choice.
That’s because the salaryman later became the president and then the chairman of a big business corporation. Eventually he was elected mayor of Seoul.
That poor man is now the front-runner in the race to become the president of Korea. Is Lee a promising candidate to be the son-in-law who will make the Korean people rich?
Let us turn the clock back six years, to July 26, 2001.
The chairman of the committee for the merger of Kookmin Bank and the Housing Bank announced, “Kim Jung-tae of the Housing Bank has been elected as the head of the merged bank.”
A few hours before the announcement, I had an interview with the chairman of the Korean Financial Supervisory Commission. He confirmed the news that Kim had been elected as the head of the unified bank, and said, “It was a close competition, but major foreign stockholders chose Kim.”
The foreign stockholders had paid attention to the situation and exercised their votes in favor of Kim, who listed the Housing Bank on the U.S. stock market.
Kim also became the talk of the town for saying, “I will only take a monthly salary of 1 won.”
A new phrase came into being, the “Kim Jung-tae stock price,” meaning that the bank put its emphasis on pleasing the stockholders. Kookmin Bank later drove forward to become the biggest bank in Korea.
Even when selecting a bank head, stockholders ponder prudently, “Will this person really benefit me?”
We must, therefore, take extreme care in electing the president who will decide the fate of the country.
Candidate Lee is the candidate so far who has stepped closest to the finishing line of the presidential race.
It is not just some shareholders, but the whole stock market, that is paying attention to what Lee says and does now. Some people have even expressed concern that he could make the market unstable by making excessive gestures.
Candidate Lee assures us he will surely “at least revive the economy.”
Choi Seong-yeon did not know for sure that her son-in-law would become a very wealthy man later in life. What she valued first was her son-in-law’s vision and confidence.
Will candidate Lee be able to show Korean voters the same thing?

*The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Sun-gu
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